In l986, Tony Campolo published a book called Who Switched
the Price Tags: A Search for Values in a Mixed Up World. In
advertising the book, he pointed out that "things that ought to be
precious--like family, friends and faith--are inconsequential and
things like a new BMW, membership in the country club and the
climb up the corporate ladder are all too often considered of great
Thirty years earlier, Martin Luther King preached a sermon in
which he made a similar point:
In 2005, former president Jimmy Carter--perhaps the greatest
and most moral former president we've ever had--wrote a book
entitled Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis.
These are just three of the many people who have pointed out
that our values are skewed--that we need to reevaluate those
things that seem important to us and readjust our values.
Our recent economic difficulties should make such a reevaluation
even more urgent. What are the things of ultimate importance in
our lives? What should be the relative value of the people in our
lives and the things we possess? What can--and should--we
value less, or perhaps even do without? What should we hold
Let's look back at some of the older values of our nation--values
like thrift and saving and sharing--to see if they might help us live
lives of true value rather than lives of consumption, waste and
greed. It would be good for us--and better for our planet as
We develop our value system by building on the values of our
parents. We add our religous training and our education. In
1999, Robert Fulgrum wrote All I Really Needed to Know I
Learned in Kindergarten. It has since come out in a revised
and expanded 15th anniversary edition. We learn many basic
values in kindergarten-- and in elementary school, high school
and college. We continue learning on the job and in our families.
I wonder if I ever understood unselfish love until I had children,
and now a grandchild, of my own.
We learn as the values we've adopted come in conflict with the
values of other people and as reality causes us to question some
of the values we've been taught in the past.
As we mature, we consolidate and pass on those values, always
with the humility to realize that we probably still don't have it
right. Yet we must do what we can to rearrange the price tags
our world keeps switching, to rediscover precious values we've
left behind and to preserve and protect those that are
endangered. That's one way we can be of value to our world.